Thursday, April 26, 2018

The significance of the International Criminal Court: Celebrating the ICC’s 20th Birthday in the US

On April 16 2018, as part of the global celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), AMICC held a moderated discussion on the importance and challenges of the ICC. We were honored to have Roy Lee (former Executive Secretary to the International Criminal Court Conference), Lori Damrosch (Hamilton Fish Professor of International Law and Diplomacy) and Jelena Pia-Comella (Deputy Executive Director of the Coalition for the ICC) as panelists. John Washburn (Convener of the American NGO Coalition for the ICC) was the moderator of the discussion.

The Rome Statute is the founding treaty of the ICC, and its creation in 1998 marked a milestone in seeking international justice by subjecting sensitive military and security matters to international law and holding powerful perpetrators accountable for crimes. During the event, panelists discussed the uniqueness of the ICC, its relationship with the United Nations, the interaction between the Rome Statute and general international law,  and the meaning of this 20th anniversary celebration.

Mr. Washburn began the conversation by introducing highlights of the ICC, demonstrating that it is a not a branch of government nor an organ of the UN, but a freestanding and independent criminal court which has the right to determine its own jurisdiction. It tries only individuals for legal reasons. One key point about the ICC legal process is that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) is required to conduct a preliminary examination to determine whether there is sufficient reason to proceed with a formal investigation. If the Prosecutor concludes that the examination provides the basis for achieving a formal investigation, she would request, or in some cases go forward on her own initiative, a formal investigation. Another strong difference between the powers of domestic courts and the ICC is that the ICC has no enforcement power, so State Parties must act on their obligations under the Rome Statute to arrest the accused person. Therefore, it is very crucial for the ICC to strengthen cooperation with State Parties that will provide enforcement. Moreover, a very important aspect of the Court that attracts favorable attention in the United States is that the Court has special services for victims, which includes one office organizing and paying reparation to victims and another providing legal assistance and representation to victims throughout proceedings.

Professor Lee then discussed the Court’s principle of complementarity, asserting that it was not until 1990s did supporters of a permanent international criminal court decide that instead of a super court, it should have a supplementary court which complements national criminal jurisdiction. Only when a state is unwilling or unable to exercise jurisdiction, does the ICC come in. This approach was well received by states and it has become the basic principle of the ICC. However, this principle has not been fully implemented yet and we need to further address how to encourage those countries which have not joined the the Court to incorporate the ICC into their national jurisdictions.

Professor Damrosch acknowledged the Court’s success and commented that the very existence and the activities of the Court or the processes by which the crimes addressed by the Court get brought into national legal systems may have had some sort of deterrent effect on the commision of those crimes. She also talked about the interaction between the Rome Statute and the broader system of international law, explaining that the Rome Statute is embedded one way or another in just about every chapter of international law curricula, such as the principle of consent, the entry into force and withdrawal.

Then Ms. Pia-Comella talked about the meaning of the anniversary and the current status of preparations for celebration events. She asserted that this anniversary is both a celebration and a commemoration. The Rome Statute has criminalized the use of child soldiers and the empirical evidence has shown that this provision has deterred the commission of this crime. Meanwhile, we are celebrating in terms of the promotion of human rights. The Court has very groundbreaking provisions for victims’ representation and protection, and especially the victims of sexual and gender-based violence and conflict. We are using the 20th anniversary to raise awareness and to link it to other issues. For example, this year is also the 70th anniversary of the genocide prevention treaty. In addition, the celebration will help us garner even more support, full understanding and honest discussion to push forward the concept of complementarity, and to gather broader political support for the Court.

At the end of the discussion, panelists engaged the audience in a series of questions about international legal issues, the ongoing ICC situations, and the Court’s future relationship with the US.

Written by Yixuan Ouyang

No comments: